Supreme Court of Canada dismisses Ktunaxa Jumbo resort appeal

First Nation argued the area around a proposed ski resort carries significant spiritual meaning

Supreme Court of Canada dismisses Ktunaxa Jumbo resort appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed an appeal by the Ktunaxa Nation who were arguing that their religious rights were infringed when the BC government approved a development plan for a ski resort on a glacier west of Invermere.

The Ktunaxa, who previously took their case to the BC Supreme Court and the BC Appeals Court, argued they were not adequately consulted by the BC government when it approved a development plan for a ski resort the Jumbo Glacier Valley.

All nine justices agreed that the provincial government had adequately consulted the Ktunaxa, however, two justices also noted that religious Indigenous would be infringed by the construction of a ski resort in spiritually sensitive land.

The area around the proposed ski resort, known as Qat’muk, carries significant religious meaning as it is home to the Grizzly Bear spirit, which is a source of spiritual strength for the Ktunaxa.

“While the goal of the process is reconciliation of the Aboriginal and state interest, in some cases this may not be possible. The process is one of ‘give and take’, and outcomes are not guaranteed,” wrote Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and Justice Malcolm Rowe, in joint reasons on behalf of seven justices.

Kathryn Teneese, the chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, said her people will continue to work on implementing the Qat’muk Declaration, which seeks to work with provincial and federal governments to establish an Indigenous Protection Area around the area.

“We feel that our resolve is unchanged, that we will continue to move down that path,” said Teneese.

While all nine justices concluded that the BC government adequately consulted with the Ktunaxa during the resort development planning process, Justice Michael Moldaver and Suzanne Côté argued that their religious rights under Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be infringed.

“The development of the ski resort would desecrate Qat’muk and cause Grizzly Bear Spirit to leave, thus severing the Ktunaxa’s connection to the land,” wrote Moldaver.

“As a result, the Ktunaxa would no longer receive spiritual guidance and assistance from Grizzly Bear Spirit. All songs, rituals, and ceremonies associated with Grizzly Bear Spirit would become meaningless.”

However, both Justices Moldaver and Côté agreed with the rest of the Supreme Court bench that the BC government, specifically Minister Steve Thomson of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources at the time, appropriately balanced the Ktunaxa religious rights with the government’s obligation to administer Crown land.

“The Minister was faced with two options: approve the development of the ski resort or grant the Ktunaxa a right to exclude others from constructing permanent structures on over fifty square kilometres of Crown land,” wrote Moldaver and Côté. “This placed the Minister in a difficult, if not impossible, position. If he granted this right of exclusion to the Ktunaxa, this would significantly hamper, if not prevent him, from fulfilling his statutory objectives. In the end, it is apparent that he determined that the fulfillment of his statutory mandate prevented him from giving the Ktunaxa the veto right that they were seeking.”

While Justices Moldaver and Côté agreed with the central question that the Ktunaxa had been adequately consulted by the BC government, their conclusion that spiritual rights had been infringed is another step forward in recognizing Indigenous religious freedoms, said Teneese.

“That means that at least two out of the nine heard some of the message that we were bringing forward,” she said, “and while it didn’t help in terms of the overall decision, we believe those were helpful for the beginning of building on the people’s understanding — all people’s understanding — of who we are as Ktunaxa people and as Indigenous people in this country.”

Teneese also said she was disappointed that the ruling did not seem to consider positions based on the United Nations Declaration of the Indigenous Peoples, which the Ktunaxa had made reference to in their submissions to the court.

“We felt it was timely due to Canada’s position around that issue as well as the government of British Columbia,” she said. “So it was a little disappointing that a tool that was made available wasn’t given more consideration as the court made its decision.”

Teneese added that in order to fully address reconciliation, it is up to individuals, governments and Indigenous peoples to work together towards solutions that are mutually beneficial to everyone.

Wildsight, an organization dedicated to wildlife and biodiversity conservation efforts in the Kootenay region, said it was disappointed by the Supreme Court ruling.

The organization says it stands with the Ktunaxa Nation in their continued fight to protect spiritually-sensitive territory from development in the Jumbo region, pointing to public support for keeping the area untouched.

“The strong local support has not waned; there’s huge public support to keep Jumbo wild,” said Robyn Duncan, the executive director of Wildsight. “The BC NDP and BC Green Party have taken strong public stances against the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the past.

“The Federal government continues to speak about their commitment to reconciliation with First Nations and the Canada Target 1 initiative, that’s looking at protecting 17 per cent of Canada’s landscape by the year 2020, I think we’re seeing all of these pieces coming into place and we have a real opportunity to take a step forward and support the Ktunaxa in their call to establish an Indigenous protected area in the Jumbo Valley.

While the Jumbo area is known as the home of the grizzly bear spirit to the Ktunaxa, it is a crucial habitat for wildlife such as the grizzly bear, wolverines and other animals that can be found in the Purcell Mountains.

The Supreme Court ruling does not mean the resort will be built.

The proposed development is currently stalled, after an Environmental Assessment Certificate (EAC) expired in 2015 because not enough work had been completed at the site, as former Environment Minister Mary Polak determined the project had not been ’substantially started’ in 2015.

Without the EAC, the proponents — Glacier Resorts Ltd — cannot do any construction as detailed in their Master Development Plan that was approved by the province in 2012.

Glacier Resorts Ltd has applied for a judicial review of the substantially started decision rendered by Polak, which is currently winding through the BC Supreme Court system.

Timeline

• March 1991 – Formal Proposal submitted to the Province.

• March 1993 – Interim Agreement, granting sole proponent status, is signed by the Province and the proponent, following advertising to determine if there was any competing interest.

• 1992 – Nov. 1994 – Review under Commission on Resource and Environment (CORE) land use process. This resulted in a designation for the Jumbo area which supported commercial tourism and resort development use, subject to such development being capable of mitigating potential environmental impacts.

• July 1995 – October 2004 – Environmental Assessment Act review – Environmental Assessment Certificate granted, with 195 conditions.

• October 2005 – Judicial review of the Environmental Assessment Office process. The court upholds the Environmental Assessment Certificate.

• 2006 – Provincial review of the draft Resort Master Plan under the All Seasons Resort Policy.

• 2006 – Consultation continued under the All Seasons Resort Policy, with commitment to Ktunaxa Nation that a Master Development Agreement would not be concluded with the proponent until consultation was completed.

• July 2007 – Resort Master Plan approved by the Province.

• 2008 – The proponent and the Shuswap Indian Band developed an Impact Management and Benefits Agreement, subject to project approval.

• 2009 – Environmental Assessment Certificate received a one-time, five-year extension.

• June 2009 -The Province advised the Ktunaxa that the consultation process, as per the agreement between Ktunaxa and the Province, was complete. Ktunaxa advised the ministry of its spiritual interest in the Jumbo area. The Province agreed to consider the new information. Consultation continued.

• October 2010 – The Ktunaxa signed a Strategic Engagement Agreement with the Province, and received a Treaty Land and Cash Offer.

• November 15, 2010 – Ktunaxa presented their Qat’muk Declaration to the Province at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

• Summer 2011 – Thomson visited the proposed site and met with the Shuswap, the Ktunaxa and the proponent.

• March 2012 -Thomson approves the Master Development Agreement for Jumbo Glacier Resort under the Land Act and the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing Act.

Just Posted

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Most Read